We saw Peter Frampton perform last night at the Palladium in Carmel, Indiana.
I’ve joked that the last time I saw Frampton “live” we both had hair, which is completely true. Last time I saw him play it was 1976 and we were both longhairs, though of a different sort. That time it was in a stadium surrounded by 50,000 screaming fans. This time the setting was more intimate — surrounded by 1,600 screaming fans.
Then, he was 26 years young and flying high from the success of ‘Frampton Comes Alive!’ — the live, two-album set that was for ages, the top selling live album of all time. Though his recording career has never repeated that success, he brings the same raw talent, enthusiasm, and excitement to the many live shows he continues to play. And now he does it with the fine polish of a forty-year, road playing veteran.
But it’s even more than that. Frampton is one of the six or maybe seven Guitar Gods dispatched to earth to delight and amaze us. Clapton, Page, Frampton… axe crashers from the heavens.
You may think he played more the role of “pop star” than guitar hero, especially after taking on the persona of the one and only Billy Shears in the ill-fated Stigwood motion picture flop of the 70’s, Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.
But here’s the thing, Frampton was a rock god before he became famous and he’s even better now. He rolled effortlessly through the oldies and for two hours, we were transported back to the mid 1970’s — the only difference, I didn’t arrive at the show in my ‘72 Chevy Nova.
The set included something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue.
Guitars were rotated in and out between nearly every song and when one old acoustic came out, Frampton stopped to explain that he had stolen this one from George Harrison. “We used to hang out at George’s place all the time and I had my eye on this one long enough that George told me not to steal it. But I ‘nicked’ it when he wasn’t looking and it’s never left my side.”
When it comes to Rock and Roll, Frampton’s blood is blue and his history, legendary.
At one point he said that in every interview he gives these days he is asked if he ever gets tired of performing the old stuff. His reply is that he keeps doing them for three reasons.
“One, I wrote them and I like them. Two, I get to perform them in deliciously different ways every night with my band. And three, I see how the audience face’s still light up whenever I play the oldies and that keeps me going.”
And speaking of his band, I’m not sure you could find more talented musicians on even an endless quest. Bass player Stan Sheldon has been with Frampton since before the live album. His best friend and long-time keyboardist, Bob Mayo, died a decade ago and Frampton still acknowledged him during the show.
There’s simply no way to wrap this up without mentioning the venue.
The Palladium in Carmel, Indiana is the most amazing concert hall within 1000 miles of Indianapolis, maybe in the entire US. The taxpayers of Carmel will be paying for it for decades to come but it’s the sort of artsy-fartsy thing that usually pays off in the end. During the show, Frampton even joked that when he stepped on stage he thought for a moment he was playing the Royal Albert Hall in London — the comparison is worthy though the Palladium might be better.
We imbibed on tunes from the advantage of a private box that afforded us a brief moment to exchange pleasantries with the performer before the show — a surreal moment in the life of someone who came of age in the 70’s.
Before the show there was an announcement that while taking photos or video in the Palladium was strictly forbidden, the “Frampton people” had requested that fans be allowed to take still pictures. No video and no flash. Nice. But there was one fellow in the front row who continued shooting video on his phone despite having been told by those on stage several times to cut it out.
At some point, enough was enough, and Frampton grabbed the phone from the guy’s hand and heaved it at least a hundred and fifty feet behind the stage while never missing a chord.
And the show rolled on to thunderous applause…